2020 was a year like no other, and that was reflected in how people planned for death. We saw a 267% increase in will-writing and grew our legacy fundraising business dramatically. Back in March, as lockdown restrictions brought about a new era of remote working, we had dozens of challenging conversations with our charity partners about how to legacy fundraise in a global pandemic.
But concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on gifts in wills at the point of will writing have proved unfounded - we saw £150 million raised through Farewill users alone. I want to share some of the patterns we’ve seen, and what this suggests about the way we deal with death - especially during this difficult year.
Remote will writing and free will services are here to stay
The pandemic has made us all face our mortality and that’s been reflected in how we plan for the future. The uncertainty of the past year, coupled with our lives getting much more digital, has led to a surge in remote will-writing. People of every generation have gone online to access our services in larger numbers than ever before, from Gen Z (up 465%) to Baby Boomers (208%). We even had a customer aged 106 make a will over the phone - we’ve all adapted to new ways over the past year!
In April we fast-tracked the launch of our telephone will-writing service. Since we launched, 72% of those customers have been over 65, and we’ve seen extremely strong gift inclusion rates and gift values. With in-person will-writing limited for now, offering supporters different options for writing their wills is a must. Online is perfect for tech-savvy users - but for those with complex estates, or simply those who’d prefer to speak to someone directly, telephone services are a great option.
People are giving generously to the causes they care about
One of the greatest joys of working at Farewill is seeing overwhelming generosity and acts of kindness from people planning for their death. In spite of the financial uncertainty many people have faced this year, we’re seeing incredible increases in charitable giving. Compared with typical monthly averages of around £4m, April saw £35m pledged through Farewill, 775% more than before the onset of the pandemic.
It’s also been extremely heartening to see the range of causes people care about. Many of our lives have been touched by cancer and we saw a quarter of all donations go to cancer charities. But we also saw gifts left to 1,300 different organisations operating in every cause area, from local mountain rescue charities to animal shelters to hospices. Our experiences and our communities shape us and it’s been touching to see people give back.
More charities are looking to legacies - and Free Will Services - for fundraising income
We’ve seen more and more charities, of all sizes, look towards legacies in 2020 as avenues for fundraising have been shut down or severely affected by the pandemic - we’re now working with over 130 different partners, many of whom joined Farewill last year. While investment in legacies has a longer-term return on investment than other fundraising activities, charities with established legacy programmes have been glad to retain a stable part of their income stream.
With around 35% of people stating that they’d like to leave a gift to charity in their will, Free Will Services are helping people actually do so. We’ve seen hospices who’ve never run legacy fundraising before launch Free Will Services with Farewill in 2020, as well as renowned legacy fundraising charities such as Marie Curie, Sue Ryder and Alzheimer’s Society looking to optimise their legacy programmes with our reporting capabilities. What’s clear is that legacies are no longer a niche or ‘nice to have’ fundraising focus for many charities - they’re becoming increasingly valuable to charities seeking longer-term income.
It’s clear we’re all reflecting on our mortality more since the pandemic. It’s been a privilege helping thousands of people get their will done over the last year, including over 8,000 NHS staff who wrote their will for free with us. We’ve always noted how kind and compassionate people are when planning for death and it’s been extraordinary to see that unchanged in the face of COVID-19.
To read a full copy of the report, visit Farewill.com/blog to download, or get in touch with a member of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.